Learn the meal planning process to make healthy, delicious meals on a budget! This meal plan includes fun, quick dinners you can make in 30 minutes.
This post is the third in a six-part series devoted to healthy, sustainable meal planning on a budget. Find the other posts here:
TO HELP YOU VISUALIZE THE MEAL PLANNING PROCESS AND ORGANIZE YOUR IDEAS, I CREATED A SET OF THREE PRINTABLE WORKSHEETS, WHICH YOU CAN DOWNLOAD HERE.
What I Bought
I went to two separate stores this week because I had to buy several staples. Whenever I need to stock up on pantry staples, I make the 25-minute trek across town to Aldi. It takes longer, but I end up saving at least $20 every time I go there. Unfortunately, you can’t get everything there, so I typically have to make a second stop at Kroger or Fresh Thyme to pick up produce and specialty items.
At the end of the day, I clocked in at $70.93. This is a significantly higher budget than I’d been working with in week 1, but a lot has changed since then! During that time, I was unemployed and Kyle’s employer was experiencing payroll issues that left us without income for weeks at a time. Fortunately, since then, I’ve gained a steady paycheck, and Kyle’s checks are coming in regularly again as well.
I also didn’t coupon this week. If I have time, I’ll take a few minutes to digitally clip coupons, and they usually end up saving me $5-$10. This weekend was beautiful and sunny, though, so I wanted to get my grocery shopping done and head outside!
What We Ate
This recipe has been a weeknight go-to for us for a while, and I don’t see myself tiring of it any time soon. It checks all the boxes for my ideal weeknight meal: it’s heavy on the veggies without feeling lackluster, it’s fun enough that I look forward to cooking it, and it’s ridiculously easy and lightning-fast. If you haven’t tried this one yet, put it on your list.
Evidently I’m not as mysterious as I think I am, because when I hinted at this sandwich on my Instagram stories, everyone guessed that I was making banh mi. Classic banh mi is made with lemongrass-marinated pork or beef, but I lightened mine up with portobello mushrooms. You cook the ‘shrooms down in a seriously delectable soy-ginger-garlic-lime concoction, and they’re magnificent. Don’t be surprised if friends and family start to ask for this one by name.
Dragon Noodles by Budget Bytes
Not exactly healthy, but 100% delicious. These noodles are my take on Beth’s famed pork and peanut dragon noodle recipe. I swapped ground turkey for the pork, then added a healthy handful of shredded green cabbage. This is one I go back to time and again when I’m looking for something comforting and quick. It comes together in like, 20 minutes. Weeknight magic, y’all.
West African Peanut Stew by Making Thyme for Health
This recipe was a serious curveball for me. I’d heard of African Peanut Stew a few times before, but I was… a little freaked out by it. Peanuts?? In a stew? Yikes. Not sure about that one. But let me tell you, just try it. What seems like a weird combination is actually a perfect balance of rich and light. Bonus: It’s super affordable, gluten free, and vegan.
Chopped Thai Chicken Salad by Pinch of Yum
Since I work at a bakery now, I’ve been on the hunt for veg-heavy, filling lunches without a ton of sugar or carbs. I usually find myself taste-testing several sweets throughout the day, so I need something that’s going to keep me going without making me feel sluggish. This Chopped Thai Chicken Salad is one of my new favorites for that reason: it’s high protein and chock full of veggies, plus it packs a good wallop of flavor.
Strawberry Shortcake Yogurt Bowls by Pinch of Yum
I’ve also been experimenting with different breakfasts lately, and I have a few requirements. They have to be easy to make ahead and bring to work, because I don’t want to stand in the kitchen for an eternity to make my breakfast. They have to be tasty (duh). And they have to be high-protein enough to keep me full till lunch. This ticks all the boxes. I’ve been making it with plain yogurt that I sweeten myself with maple syrup, because I find that most flavored yogurt is too sweet for my taste.
Ultimately, I could’ve spent less this week, but this is what week 1 would have looked like if I’d been able to spend money on snacks and extras. What’s more, I made an additional recipe to prep for lunch this week, which tacked on a few extra bucks.
I also saved a significant amount of money by schlepping across town to buy my staples at Aldi. On similar weeks, I’ve spent $25 or $30 more if I shop exclusively at Fresh Thyme.
Most notably, I was pleased with how easy all these meals were to throw together. I never felt like I was spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen, but we always ate delicious food. Win-win! (Thus conclusively proving that it is, in fact, possible to cook healthy, tasty meals with limited time and money.)